Reducing equine medical conditions on the trail and Getting to the trail base camp safely. Part 4


I intended to focus my thoughts towards equine health as related to the trail.


However allow me to step back and quickly share some thoughts about getting horses to the trail ride in a safe manner.

At a recent ride, Relay for Life, in Oxford,NC I was watching and listening as folks convoyed in to the event on Friday evening.  Something dumbstruck me over and over as I heard many rigs pull in with THAT grinding dry/rusty metal on metal sound.

Yes folks this is Dry trailer-ball syndrome (DTBS) and Dry slider- plate syndrome for 5th wheel couplers (DSPS). SEE WARNING AT BOTTOM

Let me explain the consequences of DTBS and DSPS.

When the matting surfaces of the coupler are dry, more frictional forces are placed on the tow vehicles when one travels.  Movements especially turning, following the curves in the road, changing lanes, off road on backwoods paths and even backing tend to place extreme tourqing forces on the tow vehicle and coupler mechanisms.

The tow vehicle’s suspension and drive train-including the front end, steering and the rear axle gears take the burnt of these burdens.  The tires are the first to show problems and overtime unnecessary wear to tow vehicle and trailer components do occur.




Let me explain…

Last year about twenty riders were getting together for an informal Sunday afternoon -several hour ride when disaster struck.

One of the group was trailering her horses to the gathering site -when the loaded trailer

suddenly without warning became separated from the tow vehicle and snapped the safety chains.  The trailer proceeded to pass the tow vehicle and roll not once- not twice but three times before it came to rest.

One horse was unhurt, one suffered lacerations, and one was killed.

The coupler was still in the locked position with a lock pin.

DTBS was the cause.

The trailer coupler and tow ball had unknowing worn to the point where they were no longer a proper fit.  The ball and coupler over time had acted like a mortar and pestle grinding on each other-over time the coupler lost enough metal and became enlarged (“wallowed or wallared” –out”).

Much like an osteo-arthritic dry knee on a human due to lack of synovial fluid with loss of cartilage –resulting bone on bone grinding.

A small bump in the road causes the trailer to “jump” and the coupled coupler jumped off the ball!!!.

The biggest argument against applying lubricant to trailer balls is the mess it can cause when one is not trailering. To this I say an exam glove is an easy inexpensive way to cover a greasy trailer ball to protect cargo and clothes from stains and keep sand from sticking to the trailer ball.

All I am suggesting is that one considers the means vs. extremes and come to conclusions for themselves.
CAUTION-when using lubricants

DO NOT Lubricate the locking mechanisms of the coupler!!!

STRONGLY CONSIDER ONLY SPARRINGLY APPLY TO the trailer ball or slider-plate matting surfaces.


I drive many miles pulling horse trailers or the dental stocks and keep the tow balls sparingly greased.

Over the years I have used several different lubricants, but have found a commercial

5th wheel slider- plate lubricant by Lucas in my hands to be the best and easiest to use.


Equally of concern was the lack of trailer lights and reflective markers on many of these rigs coming in at dusk.

From experience it is very unsettling when on the roadway I find myself behind a dark structure going down the road and realize it is a trailer with NON-WORKING lights.

To be discussed at a latter time….

Please make it to the trail safely for everyone and our precious cargos.


Dr. Fred